Archive for September 2008

In the midst of our troubles, Lord we cry to thee

September 12, 2008

People who have known suffering often are overwhelmed by a sense of helplessness, they do not have anyone to turn to, they no longer have any resources. They call out to God.
It would be cruel to point out that they should have been walking with Him all along, and not going their own way before the calamity humbled them. Yet this is how God calls us back to Him. It is a recurring theme in the old testament with echos in the new, when people are well off they tend to turn to their own silly schemes, they try to build a paradise of their own making on earth and they forget God, or at best only give Him formal lip service, without any feeling behind it. Then God in His wisdom brings destruction to the society which trusts in their own cleverness and might. Some will respond by repenting and turning wholeheartedly to Him.
My friends this is where we are and this is where we are going. We have had things go our way for so long that there are actually christians whose focus and belief is that God will make them rich. Let me be very clear about this, yes God made people rich especially in the old testament, but these were for the most part people who walked closely with Him. Affluence in many instances in the old testament brought the attitude of self-sufficiency and haughtiness. As early as the time of Jacob, the haughty even hateful attitude of Jacob’s sons (oh yes, Jacob was a rich man in his time, and his sons were rich kids) caused them to hate their brother Joseph and want to kill him. They hated him because Joseph had told them of a dream from the Lord wherein his brothers and parents were bowing down to him, the next to youngest of the brothers. If it hadn’t been for the intervention of Reuben, who wanted to rescue Joseph out of the trap, they would have killed him. Judah suggested that they sell Joseph into slavery when a convenient band of arab traders came by on their way to Egypt. The attitude of Joseph’s brothers (all destined to become the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel) except for Benjamin and Reuben, brought hard times, a chastening from God, for a severe famine soon held the land in it’s grip.
Oh it took a while, Joseph was a slave, and in jail and then there were the seven good years. But make no mistake the seven bad years were very bad indeed, and notice that the wisdom from God to prepare for the famine went with the son who had the better attitude. Joseph in this case was the remnant, of all of his brothers he walked with God, even while serving in a pagan land. He trusted in God and patiently waited for his ordeal to end. Meanwhile during the seven good years his brothers lived their affluent pastoral lifestyle, it’s a funny thing about the nomadic life of the patriarchs, they lived off the bounty of the land, good grazing, good water etc., completely dependent on God’s grace toward them. So when God brought famine to the land they were busted flat, all they had was their savings and that had to go to buy grain in Egypt, from Joseph.
They had to come cap in hand, to the Egyptians, to beg that the Egyptians would even sell them the grain they needed to survive. In this situation God illustrates for us the way it will be, the foolish, arrogant sons of Jacob brought low to bow, unbeknownst to them, before the son who was wiser. The son who had depended solely on the Lord for many years and who had prospered.
So, did Joseph wreak revenge on the brothers who had sold him into slavery? Did he send them away empty handed to die in the desert?
No, he did not, when he eventually revealed who he really was, he cried and hugged his brothers and welcomed them and he said this amazing thing.
“ 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” -Genesis 50:20 NLT

So it is and so it will be for those of us who seek Jesus’ face early, before the famine grips us and there is nothing to eat, and no shelter for us. Those of us who have found our shelter in God will be instrumental in leading others in the wise path, the path to an intimate friendship with the Lord.
And while Joseph is an example to us that we should not lord it over our fellows who have in the past disrespected us. It is the Lord himself who will be like Joseph, the Lord Jesus whom we treated shamefully and executed when he came, whom we still ignore.
While we are busy building our idols of riches, power and comfort, He is holding his hands out to us day and night.
When we have been brought low and humbly seek Him, it is He, whom we have wronged, who will receive us with joy and say what Joseph said.
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”-same reference as above




At Odds With God

September 1, 2008

We live in a society which is at odds with what God outlines in the scriptures.

God says that He hates the proud, that pride goes before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18, Proverbs 8:13)

Yet, people in our society are always telling you to be proud of your country. Be patriotic. Be proud of the traditions of your “church” (the institution).

God says don’t rely on your own strength, or in human armies, rely on His strength. (Proverbs 3:5, Psalms 118:9)

Our society says, support the military, for it is what has kept us free.

Jesus calls anyone who is willing to walk with Him and serve Him. (John 12:26)

Our society says you can’t really serve God until you go to seminary and earn an advanced degree and get a license from the state.

God says to love your enemies and bless those who curse you. (Matthew 5:44)

Our society says it’s alright to hate the terrorists and by extension the radical muslims. Of course in many households in this country children are taught to hate and mistrust anyone who is not in their social class or who does not look like they do.

Jesus said that His disciples would be known for their love for one another. (John 13:35)

In our country if you don’t drive a fairly new car, dress nicely, smell good, and have 2.5 kids you can expect to be treated as an outsider at most “churches”. Three out of four of the aforementioned will still get you cold fish handshakes and lukewarm greetings. If you are even more different, the greeting you will receive might even be hostile.

God says love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul and strength, and trust Him for everything. (Mark 12:30, Proverbs 3:5)

Our “churches” say if you sit in a pew and give to the “church” (usually “tithe”) then you are only just doing your duty and you should get involved with one of the church programs.

God says love Me first and then you will serve Me.

The “church” says serve or we’ll make you feel guilty for not doing enough. I have recently heard the derisive term “pew potatoes” used in an attempt to motivate people.

Jesus said My sheep know Me and I know them…My sheep hear My voice …the voice of another they will not follow.(John 10)

The “church” says listen to your pastor, obey him.

Of course I could go on and on, but I think you get the message. What we are doing nearly every day, is rationalizing the bad things we do and ignoring the Lord’s direction.
In our pride we are telling God how fortunate He is to have a Godly country, and Godly people like us, and then we walk away from Him.
So how do we break free of the cycle.
In Deuteronomy 4:28-29 it says;

28 There, in a foreign land, you will worship idols made from wood and stone—gods that neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell. 29 But from there you will search again for the Lord your God. And if you search for him with all your heart and soul, you will find him.

and in verse 30

30 “In the distant future, when you are suffering all these things, you will finally return to the Lord your God and listen to what he tells you.

If you have a heart for God, if you humbly seek Him, He will answer you. He will heal you and set you on His path.

In the story of the prodigal son, Jesus made it clear that if you find yourself making really bad mistakes it does no good to cuss and kick yourself, instead go to the Father and tell Him what a dope you’ve been. He will receive you with joy and love and he will clothe and feed you. Even the less stupid son didn’t understand this.

Jesus is making it clear that He came to save people (rescue them, if you will) who have lost their way, not to set up a club where the righteous congratulate themselves, and look down their noses at others. Jesus, came to re-establish the relationship that He had with Adam in the beginning. If that means going after lambs that stray, He has told us that He is prepared to do it.

People are funny, we tend not to give up on ourselves, until we are drowning in a mess of our own making, God may nudge us to the brink of our self made disaster, to bring us to our knees, but what we do in the middle of it is up to us. If we take our new found humility and ask Him to take us in, we will find that this is exactly what He has been waiting for. You see, the person with a proud heart resists God, they want to go their own way and receive their own glory for their accomplishments. God wants you to live in the reality that He alone is God and we don’t even come close to having a claim on that. Confessing to Him is part of this reality check, when you confess to God you are saying, “I am not God, I am not perfect, I continually fall short, and I am asking Your forgiveness, Lord.” He is as some old hymn that I barely remember says “slow to anger, swift to bless”. God takes no pleasure in raking you over the coals, He wants to
lift you out of the muck, clean you up and take you in. We also have from the book of Daniel a pretty good indication of how he takes care of us when we put all of our trust in Him.
The remarkable story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego should be allowed to escape the confines of the children’s sunday school once in a while to let us marvel at it.

In the story the three young men are arrested for not obeying King Nebuchadnezzar’s latest law which ordered all of the people, at a musical signal, to bow down to the king’s 90 foot tall golden image. The king threatened to throw them alive into a furnace, and he made the comment “Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” Daniel 3:14 NIV

Well when they refused to bow to any God but their own, the king had them tied up and thrown into the furnace. Let me tell you that these young men all trussed up and thrown into a blazing hot furnace, had nothing left in this world but their trust in God, and God was there for them. He met them in the furnace and visibly walked around in there with them. The king was astounded that they were not consumed immediately, after all the guards who threw them in had been killed by the heat. Then the king was flabbergasted, he said, “didn’t we throw three guys in how come I’m seeing four walking around, and one of them is shining like the sun.” So in an unusual show of humility the king asked them to come out, then the king apologized. The bible is careful to inform us that they weren’t harmed at all and that they didn’t even smell smokey. What a picture this gives us of God’s tender care for us. If we put all of our trust in Him, He will be there for us.

You might consider that if the young men had been able to hide out from Nebuchadnezzar, and avoid the fiery trial they would have missed out on a tremendous blessing and an experience which helped mature them.

These days there are many people who are going through their own fiery trials. They are discovering that the mortgage lender is no longer as friendly as they were at the beginning, or that they can no longer afford the gas to make the long commute to work. Maybe some of you are suffering the consequences of some very bad business decisions. You don’t have to go through these tough times alone. Call out to God and know in your heart that He will answer you.

Go to a place where you will not be disturbed and pour out your heart to Him, don’t hold back don’t try to color the truth, He knows what happened, but He wants to hear it from you. Then when you can’t think of anything more to say, ask Him what he would like to tell you, and listen. If you like write out your part and then write out His answer, that’s what King David did in the Psalms. I believe you will find that He has words of encouragement for you, more loving than what you might have expected. For you see even if the whole country is at odds with God, He is never at odds with a heart that earnestly seeks Him.